By Tony Armstrong
The New York Times has discovered something that IU officials have known for years—that business innovation is, can, and should be driven by university research.
In The Idea Incubator Goes to Campus, Bob Tedeschi describes the “proof-of-concept center” as a new model for commercializing research discoveries.
At first glance, the centers look like academic versions of business incubators. But universities are getting involved now at a much earlier stage than incubators typically do. Rather than offering seed money to businesses that already have a product and a staff, as incubators usually do, the universities are harvesting great ideas and then trying to find investors and businesspeople interested in developing them further and exploring their commercial viability.
It’s a great idea. And, in Indiana, it’s been happening for years.
IU has been in the incubator business since 2003, when it opened the IU Emerging Technologies Center in Indianapolis. It launched a Bloomington incubator in 2009. Now, IU is even providing seed capital to promising clients through the Innovate Indiana Fund.
Tedeschi cites proof-of-concept centers at MIT and University of California at San Diego as leaders in the field. He notes that San Diego’s William J. von Liebig Center “has helped start 26 companies that have created more than 180 jobs” since 2001.
Not to brag, but the IURTC has been in business since 1997 and has helped create nearly 40 companies and more than 500 Indiana jobs. Last year, it celebrated the $100 million sale of one of the first incubator tenants—ANGEL Learning.
Can universities drive business innovation? I’d say IU has already proven the concept.